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by Lindsay Miller
We’ve all indulged in the Netflix binge. Series after series of episodes that we like to call our “guilty pleasures.” But why do we feel guilty? Reading a novel for several hours is just as stationary and, arguably, equally entertaining and addictive as watching TV. However, we don’t attach the degrading term “binging” and label it a “guilty” pleasure—it’s just called “reading.”
The collection of engaging, intellectual, and educational shows now available to us do not dull our senses. It’s quite the opposite, in fact: shows can stimulate our brain with interest and opportunity for critical engagement.
The stress we endure on a regular basis needs a break from time to time. While we are all about balancing out your lifestyle to stay healthy and happy, we cannot deny how common stress symptoms have become.
Stress affects your body, your thoughts, your behavior, your feelings and your overall well-being. Research shows that when stress is left unmanaged and out of control, it can lead to serious health problems, like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Per the Mayo Clinic, there is a variety of noticeable attributes that go along with stress in three areas.
Common stress symptoms that affect your body:
• Muscle tension or pain
• Chest pain
• Upset stomach
• Problems sleeping
Common effects of stress on your mood:
• Lack of motivation or focus
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Irritability or anger
• Sadness or depression
Common effects of stress on your behavior:
• Overeating or undereating
• Social withdrawal
• Exercising less
• Mood related outburst
So why feel lazy and guilty when it seems more beneficial to take action and avoid the above? What if, instead of laziness, we called it recovery? Seriously, though, sitting with our feet up and relaxing sure does have its benefits. To list a few:
- Rest! Gives your body time to heal, recover and ease inflammation caused by stress
- Relax! Calms nerves and gives your brain a break, boosting your memory
- Lowers your risk of stroke
- Reduces muscle tension and chronic pain. Can lower your blood pressure
- Increases blood flow to your major muscles
- Allows for focus on the multiple plots, characters and whatever else is going on!
- Simulates intellect without anxiety (Maybe this one depends on the show…but keep reading)
So, don’t see yourself as a couch potato. Instead, follow these suggested pairings of educational entertainment and snacks, and literally veg out (short for vegetable, right?) in front of the TV.
This is on everyone’s list of best documentaries, not just in the category of fitness, so we couldn’t deny the 1977 film. It’s a partly scripted, partly real film about the 1970’s bodybuilding era that many consider the golden age of the sport—possibly because the topic of Performance Enhancement Drugs is omitted. The film depicts two major competitions: Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia. And two major attributes: mind games and vanity. It welcomes young Arnold Schwarzenegger, a narcissist personified in muscle, who is competing for his sixth Mr. Olympia title. Among other contenders, the film focuses also on a shy, young, and nervous Lou Ferrigno (who is also mostly deaf). Despite their equally large builds, the competitors have drastically different personalities. As a result, Pumping Iron is a captivating glimpse into the kind of a sociopathy required for this level of self-absorption. Prepare yourself for some awkward comparisons between sex and weight lifting.
Snack with: Almond Butter Banana Protein Balls
- 1 banana, ripe
- 1/2 cup protein powder (your choice)
- 1/2 cup Almond butter
- 1 cup almond meal/flour
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips, mini
- 1/2 cup flax meal
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Nuts & seeds
- 1/4 cup almonds
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
The movie. The movement. Asks: What makes you happy? How would you define happiness? Your kids and family? Your work? Your health and lifestyle? Does our culture promote our well-being? Director Roko Belic (also known for Bruce Almighty), compiles a series of interviews that vary from real-life stories around the world to happiness researchby leading behavioral scientists. He travels from the bayous of Louisiana to the deserts of Namibia, from the beaches of Brazil to the villages of Okinawa, in an attempt to answer our most pressing questions about our most revered emotion.
Pair with: Apple Nachos
- Slice up an apple and lay around the plate
- Lightly drizzle 100 percent agave honey and almond butter over apple slices
- Sprinkle with salt and cinnamon (can add coconut or dark chocolate shavings)
Narrated by Katie Couric, this documentary, again, points the finger at sugar, and specifically highlights the increase we are seeing in processed foods. As the title suggests, be prepared to get a little angry while watching this film as the movie is structured around interviews with overweight adolescents and their families. It’s not necessarily a warning to ignorant shoppers, but a rally cry to protect our children and their future. Making dinner from scratch, even though it may be more time consuming, is one of the most important ways to getting healthy whole foods into our diet.
Pair with: Midnight Smoothie Bowl
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 1 handful of baby spinach
- 3/4 cup of frozen blueberries
- 3/4 cup of frozen blackberries
- 1 large frozen banana
- 1 heaping teaspoon of spirulina powder
- 1 teaspoon of maca powder (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
- Toppings of your choice. Cubed mango, coconut flakes, and sunflower seeds
- Place all ingredients in a high-power blender and process until smooth
The research and information this film throws at you will not just change your perspective on the food industry; it will blow your mind. The film not only brands sugar as the “new cigarette” to children and teens, but also refers to it as poison for much of the film. After a while, you’ll easily see why, and likely agree. It analyzes the sugar industry inside and out, including how it operates and the practices it picked up from “big tobacco” marketing and politics. The film attacks the over-consumption of sugar in our regular diet and points out the dangers of it showing up in all our foods. Claiming the use of sugar has spiraled out of control, Sugar Coated evaluates not just our inability to educate the masses, but the money that is continuing to drive it forward. Warning: whatever you snack on during this whirlwind will probably leave you feeling guilty. Sorry. But here is a good, guilt-free try.
Snack: Herb-Roasted Chickpeas
- Drain a can of chickpeas
- Toss in a little oil and seasoning
- Bake (about 30 minutes)
- Once baked toss again in seasoning below
- 1/2 tsp dill weed, dried
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
FITTEST ON EARTH
A Decade of Fitness: Known for its intensity, the sport of CrossFit has held an ever-growing worldwide competition for the last ten years. Its purpose? To test athletes to the highest level of fitness and expose teams and individuals to some of the most physically enduring challenges. The Reebok CrossFit Games pushes competitors to perform intense physical tasks, but the hardest part is sometimes mental: seeing as athletes train for years, but often learn the details of each task minutes before they are required to do them. This documentary follows the dramatic story of the top athletes who qualified and competed. Fittest on Earth offers an inside look at what it takes to be mentally and physically strong enough to compete alongside those branded the fittest on earth. (While this technically isn’t on Netflix for viewing, it can be streamed from Amazon.) Have some time set aside afterward though. Trust me, you will want to go workout!
Snack: Paleo-Inspired Smoked Paprika Popcorn Cauliflower
- 2 small heads cauliflower, cut into florets (or one large)
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- Heat oven to 425 degrees
- In a large bowl, add oil, paprika and salt to combine
- Add the cauliflower and stir until the florets are coated. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the florets begin to brown around the edges
FORKS OVER KNIVES
This documentary looks at the environmental impact of our society’s obsession with animal-based protein. The film argues that the meat industry has led to lifestyle shifts that have negative effects on our overall health. While some of the stories may be a bit alarmist, like a discussion of The China Study, the overall message is that we need to start eating more plants and less meat—now. It examines the profound statement that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that trouble us can be either reversed or controlled by rejecting much of our familiar diet—which is over-processed foods and animal-based proteins.
Snack: Eating well doesn’t have to be as complicated as we sometimes make it out to be. Put some grapes, blueberries, raspberries or any other fruit in the freezer. You can use a toothpick to eat or lay them out like kabobs, up to you. it’s the easiest snack out there that is bite sized and satisfying to pop right in your mouth.
While we recognize the benefits of a little R&R, do remember that sitting for extremely long periods of time can be in other ways detrimental. We aren’t exchanging Netflix for exercise, but like all things, enjoy in moderation. If you are planning to have an all-day marathon session, make a commitment to stretch or move around between episodes. Or prepare some stretches, make some snacks, and knock out all five of our suggestions!